Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Turkey reaches new level of hypocrisy

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Following the release of the UN "Palmer Report", which vindicated Israel's blockade of Gaza, Turkey has not only rejected the findings of the Report and maintained that Israel's blockade is illegal, but the Turkish government has been engaging in extremely provocative posturing regarding its stance towards Gaza, even threatening what could be construed as an act of war against Israel.

For starters, there was the threat that Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan was to visit Gaza from Egypt on his upcoming trip around the Arab countries in North Africa whose regimes have recently fallen. This embrace of Hamas terrorists has just been revoked, but would have been a snub to the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority if it had gone ahead. That said, Reuters has reported that Turkey is now threatening to send Turkish warships with any future flotilla to Gaza, in order to "protect them from Israel".

Turkish warships will escort any Turkish aid vessels to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in remarks broadcast on Al Jazeera television on Thursday.

... "The eastern Mediterranean will no longer be a place where Israeli naval forces can freely exercise their bullying practices against civilian vessels," a Turkish official was quoted as saying.

Although the comments were later clarified by a spokesperson for the Prime Minister.

Erdogan said: "At the moment, no doubt, Turkish warships are first of all liable to protect their own ships. This is the first step. And there is humanitarian aid, which we will extend. Our humanitarian assistance will no longer be attacked as happened in the case of the Mavi Marmara."

A senior government official quoted by Today's Zaman on Friday said Erdogan's remarks did not mean Ankara was preparing to send humanitarian-aid ships to Gaza, escorted by Turkish gunboats.

"As long as Israel does not interfere in the freedom of navigation, we do not plan on sending any warships to escort humanitarian-aid ships," the official was quoted as saying.

Were Erdogan to send Turkish warships into Israeli waters, it would be a declaration of war for all intents and purposes. While the "clarification" may rule this out, Turkey is still threatening a provocative naval stand-off between the two states, which would not be in the interests of anyone.

Meanwhile, while Turkey is doing all it can to deny Israel its right to defend itself from terror, it has been asking the US to station a fleet of drones in Turkey in order to attack the Kurds in Northern Iraq. As reported by Craig Whitlock for The Washington Post:

The Obama administration is considering a request from Turkey to base a fleet of Predator drones on Turkish soil for counterterrorism operations in northern Iraq, a decision that could strengthen a diplomatic alliance but drag the United States deeper into a regional conflict.

The U.S. military has flown the unarmed Predators from Iraqi bases since 2007 and shared the planes' surveillance video with Turkey as part of a secretive joint crackdown against fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Unless a new home for the Predators is found, however, the counterterrorism partnership could cease by Dec. 31, when all U.S. forces are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq.

The request stems from the ongoing struggle between Turkey and separatists from among its oppressed Kurdish minority. A wave of Kurdish activism has been growing in Turkey recently, with the minority demanding a number of civil rights, such as the right to speak their own language in public, as well as some more separatist demands including some form of regional autonomy; the PKK has employed terror attacks against Turkey in an attempt to achieve these ends. Turkey has taken a heavily armed response, including air raids in Northern Iraq, and is now asking America for assistance.

Certainly Turkey has a right to defend itself from terror attacks launched on its territory from Iraqi Kurdistan, but why does Israel have any less of a right to defend itself from attacks from Gaza? The Hamas rockets and mortars come far more frequently than attacks from the PKK and Israel is not facing mass protests from its own citizens, as Turkey is - Israeli Arabs have the same rights as any other Israelis and do not suffer the kind of institutionalised discrimination that is directed against the Turkish Kurds. The whole situation smacks of hypocrisy.

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

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